The name Stony Island Avenue could become a relic of the past if Mayor Rahm Emanuel has his way.
Emanuel says the name of the major South Side thoroughfare that runs from 56th Street to 130th should be changed to “Reverend Bishop Brazier Avenue” in honor of the late local civil rights leader. The rare proposal goes beyond an honorary street designation and could result in a permanent name change that would affect official signs and maps.
The mayor is expected to introduce his proposal for the name change to the City Council Wednesday, DNAinfo Chicago reports.
“Bishop Brazier was a spiritual and community leader on Chicago’s South Side, fighting against crime and poverty, while advocating for better housing and schools,” Emanuel said in a statement. “By renaming Stony Island Avenue in his memory, we are honoring a man who influenced generations of pastors and parishioners to spiritual worship with community activism.”
Brazier is credited with bringing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Chicago in the '60s and emceed the massive rally at Soldier Field. Brazier also helped shepherd the Apostolic Church of God in Woodlawn through explosive growth and led several community organizations in the community, NBC Chicago reports. Brazier died in 2010 at the age of 89 after a long battle with cancer.
Despite the good intentions, ABC Chicago said mayoral critics may view the proposal as a means of scoring political points with the city's black community -- a place Emanuel has seen his support slipping. UIC professor of political science -- and former alderman -- Dick Simpson said politics aside, the move is justified.
"Bishop Brazier was a very important figure in Chicago history," Simpson said. "It's both good government and good politics, and it's really nice when those go together for a public official."
The name change would have real costs -- signage replacement and more -- but ABC reports aldermen are showing early signs of supporting the proposal.
According to the Sun-Times, if Emanuel's proposal succeeds, it will be the first renaming of an arterial street since the late 1970s, when South Parkway Boulevard was renamed to the current King Drive in honor of Dr. Matin Luther King Jr.